Discover Subaru Outback Years to Avoid Vs Most Reliable Subaru Outback Best Years!

Patrick Oziegbe
Published On:

The Subaru Outback is a standard, popular midsize SUV that has continued to gain positive reputation among families and corporate companies.

An all-wheel-drive small SUV, known for its reliability and versatility boasting of huge cabinet of awards for safety and performance.

Based on these qualities, you’re also ready to shop for a used or pre-owned Outback, but before you finalized your shopping, some factors must be considered.

Which is the most reliable and Subaru Outback Best Years to buy? This question is vital because some previous Subaru Outback models were prone to problems such as transmission issues, defective piston rings, engine problems and excessive oil consumption, among other issues we shall discuss detail, below

Carefully read through this guide to get latest information about which Outback to avoid and Subaru Outback best years to spend your budget on!

These are Subaru Outback Best Years, Used

Subaru Outback Years to Avoid
©Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

According to different sources, the following years are considered the best years for the Subaru Outback:

  • 2003-2004
  • 2005-2009
  • 2012-2014
  • 2021-2022

These years stand out as the most reliable Subaru Outback years due to almost perfect reliability, performance, and overall quality. Specifically, the 2005-2009 models focused on performance by introducing the turbocharged XT version with 250 horsepower and a 2.5L engine.

Worst Outback Model Years to Avoid

The worst model years for the Subaru Outback that you may want to avoid are as follows:

  • 2010-2011
  • 2017-2020

The above stated are the Subaru Outback years to avoid due to several reported common problems and lower-than-average reliability scores.

For instance, the 2010-2011 years faced issues with the head gaskets, while the 2017-2020 models were known for having transmission problems.

Most Common Problems and Issues

Transmission Problems

Subaru Outback models from 2010 to 2013 have common transmission issues, particularly in the automatic transmission.

These problems include faulty torque converters, severe jerking, shuddering, and complete transmission failure.

Most of these issues occur at higher mileages, around 90,000 miles or more and been reported to occur to both manual and automatic transmissions have been reported to experience issues during this period.

Engine Problems

One of the most serious issues with certain Subaru Outback years is engine failure due to defective piston rings.

These faulty parts can cause excessive oil consumption and leaks into the cylinders. The 2013 model year has been particularly affected by this issue, as well as other engine problems like delayed acceleration, engine noises, and cruise control faults.

Electrical Issues

Some Subaru Outback models have seen a high frequency of electrical problems, including battery failures.

The years 2017, 2018, and 2019 have shown the most common electrical issues, affecting reliability and overall satisfaction for some owners.

Infotainment System

The infotainment system found in certain Subaru Outback models can also present some issues including software glitches or unresponsive touchscreens.

Generations and Subaru Outback Models

The Subaru Outback has gone through several generational changes since its introduction, with each generation bringing new features and improvements.

Third Generation (2004 and 2009)

The third generation of the Subaru Outback was produced between 2004 and 2009. During this time, the Outback wagon was available in various trims such as the base model, Outback Limited, and Outback Premium.

The vehicles in this generation were equipped with terrain tires, making them suitable for various road conditions.

  • Updated design to improve the rugged look
  • Available 4-cylinder and 6-cylinder engines
  • Advanced safety features for its time

Despite these improvements, the third-generation Outbacks experienced a few issues. However, these issues were less prominent compared to other generations.

Fourth Generation (2010-2014)

The fourth generation – 2010-2014 continued to build on the previous models’ success, with the introduction of the Subaru Legacy Outback.

This generation expanded on user convenience and improved fuel efficiency, attracting more buyers to the Subaru brand, with these features:

  • Newer and more efficient engine options
  • Refined interior and exterior design
  • Enhanced driving experience

However, some Subaru vehicles in this generation experienced issues with their engines, leading to a class-action lawsuit. The affected years to avoid in this generation are 2011 and 2013, as they faced the most complaints regarding engine problems.

Sixth Generation (2015-2019)

The sixth-generation Subaru Outback spanned between 2015-2019, parading many new updates and advancements compared to previous generations.

With an increased focus on performance, safety, and connectivity, the Outback continued to be a popular choice for consumers:

  • Updates to the infotainment system
  • Advanced driver assistance technology
  • Improved driving dynamics

Despite the overall improvements, the 6th gen has had issues with unintended acceleration. Experts speculate that the safety risk problem may be associated with an inadequate fault system or faulty brake override system.

Subaru Outback Reliability by Year and Safety Ratings

The is brand has overall high safety and reliable ratings, but discuss Subaru Outback reliability by year drawing facts from credible platforms, including Consumer Reports and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The models from 2000-2018 have struggled with overheating issues, mainly due to a failing cooling system. These problems can manifest themselves as broken radiators, coolant leaks, and broken thermostats.

Conversely, the 2005 Subaru Outback is considered the best year due to its improved performance and stylish redesign. It appears that the Outback’s third generation marked a significant improvement in the vehicle’s reliability.

Some notes about safety ratings

In terms of safety ratings, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has consistently awarded the Subaru Outback with high ratings in crash tests.

The 2023 Subaru Outback has not had any safety recalls issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). And, the 2023 model comes with a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty according to U.S. News.

As with any vehicle purchase, you should consider issues and recalls associated with the Subaru Outback SUV before purchase.

Factors to Consider When Buying a Used Subaru Outback

When searching for a used Subaru Outback, there are several factors to keep in mind.

  • Model year

First, consider the specific model year you’re interested in. While many Outbacks are reliable, some years are better than others. For example, it is advisable to avoid the 2013 model and the 2006 model, as they have been reported to have some issues.

  • Low mileage and history

Make buying a vehicle with a low mileage Outback a priority because they usually have fewer mechanical problems.

Additionally, it’s essential to inquire about the maintenance history and previous owners, as well-maintained vehicles are far more likely to last longer.

  • Interior space

Interior space is also an essential factor, with the Outback offering ample room for passengers and cargo. If you’re looking for a used car with excellent fuel economy, the 2016 model is a standout option, boasting a combined 24 mpg.

Potential Red Flags

Be cautious when considering used Outbacks with a CVT transmission, as these models may need costly repairs. It’s crucial to take the vehicle for a test drive to ensure the transmission is functioning correctly.

Another issue to look out for is excessive rust, which can plague older Subaru models. Inspect the undercarriage and suspension components to ensure that rust hasn’t compromised the overall integrity of the vehicle.

Also, be mindful of any potential oil leaks, particularly in models with the 2.5-liter turbocharged engine, as these can lead to more significant issues down the line.

Maintenance and Care

One of the essential components of the Outback is its 2.5-liter engine. Over time, this engine can experience problems if it isn’t properly maintained.

One of the main issues that can arise in this engine is related to oil consumption. To avoid this problem, regular oil changes are recommended.

By performing timely oil changes, you can ensure the engine stays lubricated and operating at an optimal level. Keep an eye on the oil level, and if it appears the engine is consuming too much oil, consult a professional mechanic for proper guidance.

In addition to oil changes, the transmission system of the Subaru Outback can also experience wear and tear over time.

Transmission failure is a common problem in some of the older Outback models, so regular transmission fluid changes and check-ups can help prolong its lifespan.

As station wagons, Subaru Outbacks can handle various types of terrain, but exposing the engine block to extreme conditions without proper care can lead to complications.

To prevent issues within the engine block, make periodic checks for coolant leaks, thermostat functionality, and other critical components.

Regular maintenance should also include the inspection and cleaning of the combustion chamber. Keeping the combustion chamber in good condition can help minimize the risk of performance and efficiency issues in the engine.

Here is a simple list of maintenance tasks for Subaru Outback owners:

  • Regular oil changes
  • Periodic transmission fluid changes
  • Checking coolant levels and thermostat functionality
  • Enspecting and cleaning the combustion chamber

Comparison with Other Vehicles

We published a comparison between Subaru Outback with close competitor using important factors, including fuel economy, reliability, and common issues, among others.

Model Fuel Economy (MPG) Reliability Price for New Price for Used
Subaru Outback 26 city / 33 highway Above average $26,795 $10,000 – $40,000
Toyota 4Runner 16 city / 19 highway Above average $37,565 $20,000 – $50,000
Jeep Grand Cherokee 19 city / 26 highway Average $35,390 $15,000 – $45,000
Hyundai Santa Cruz 21 city / 27 highway Average $23,990 $25,000 – $40,000
Audi A4 Allroad 24 city / 30 highway Above average $45,700 $25,000 – $60,000
Volvo V60 Cross Country 22 city / 31 highway Above average $46,450 $25,000 – $55,000


Toyota 4Runner:

The 4Runner is a traditional body-on-frame SUV that offers more off-road capability than the Outback, but Outback delivers fuel economy and a more comfortable ride on paved roads. Click to discover the 4Runner best used models.

Jeep Grand Cherokee:

The Grand Cherokee, a traditional SUV, boasts of its off-road proficiency. Its lavish interior design surpasses that of the Outback.

Nonetheless, it comes with a higher price tag. On the other hand, the Outback excels in terms of cargo capacity and fuel efficiency.

Hyundai Santa Cruz:

Enter the Hyundai Santa Cruz, a newcomer in the market that muddles the line between pickup trucks and SUVs. It may not match the off-road capabilities and cargo space of the Outback, but it compensates with its sleek design and affordable cost.

Audi A4 Allroad:

The Audi A4 Allroad, a luxury wagon, takes the lead in terms of superior performance and deluxe interior compared to the Outback.

However, this comes at a steeper price point, and it also boasts of a smaller cargo area. In contrast, the Outback outperforms the A4 Allroad when it comes to fuel economy and off-road proficiency. Here are Audi Allroad issues to avoid.

Volvo V60 Cross Country:

The Volvo V60 Cross Country, another luxury wagon that competes with the Outback, flaunts a more sophisticated interior design and superior performance.

Nevertheless, this elevated experience is accompanied by a higher cost. Meanwhile, the Outback remains a frontrunner in terms of fuel efficiency and off-road capability.


What is Subaru lemon years?

Subaru lemon years refer to those production years when the Subaru Outback exhibited a higher frequency of issues or problems compared to other years.

The years to avoid are 2013, 2011, 2017, 2018, and 2019. These years have shown a higher frequency of transmission problems, engine issues, battery failures, and other general complaints that made them less desirable compared to other Outback production years.

Which Subaru Outback is best?

There are several excellent Subaru Outback production years to consider. We ask you focus on these  best Subaru Outback model years to buy:

  • 2001 to 2004 Subaru Outback
  • 2005 to 2010 Subaru Outback
  • 2012 Subaru Outback
  • 2019 to 2022 Subaru Outback

The listed best years have far less customer negative reports, fewer complaints and generally score high in reliability ratings.


International Scout

The SUV Revolution: 15 Vehicles That Sparked the Sport Utility Trend

Imagine a world without the familiar sight of SUVs on every corner – hard to picture, isn’t it? Today, these versatile giants rule the roads, offering the perfect blend of style, space, and comfort that
SUV driving safety

The 20 Safest States For SUV Drivers, In America (Hawaii Tops the List)

Safety is a top priority for many drivers, especially those with families. Buckle up for some surprising news that’ll have SUV drivers breathing a sigh of relief – especially if you’re cruising in Hawaii and
kia telluride years to avoid

Discover The Worst Kia Telluride Years to Avoid and Best Used Telluride

Are you ready to take on the open road in a used Kia Telluride? Before you hit the gas pedal, make sure you know which model years to avoid. While the Telluride is a top-notch three-row


Sign up now to get the email newsletter and exclusive deals weekly.